[This post was written by Frank Leeb]
Earlier this morning, I was on the elliptical at the gym in my home town where I proudly serve as a volunteer firefighter. Like every call for help in my community, I received a text notification on my cell phone. This is the method used to notify volunteer firefighters to respond to calls for help. This particular text notification was for a reported person in cardiac arrest. I recognized the street address to be fairly close to the gym. I jumped off the elliptical, grabbed my belongings and hurried from the gym to the home address of the cardiac arrest. I arrive quickly; the home is less than one mile from the gym.
The paid district paramedic who is hired to quickly respond in a first responder vehicle was already on scene, along with one of the local police officers. They had assessed the scene and begun working on the patient – a young man – who was in arrest. Work continued feverishly on the patient and the ambulance with additional help soon arrived. The patient was packaged and transported to the hospital where he is expected to survive.
Due to the heroic actions already in progress upon my arrival, I did not contribute much to the life saving efforts that occurred, however the fact that I was nearby and notified as a volunteer firefighter underscores the value that notification systems can have. I was notified because I was in the town where I am a firefighter. However, what if I were in a neighboring town? I would not have been notified that help was needed and therefore would have been unable to respond and possibly make a life saving difference.
This cardiac arrest call occurred less than 12 hours after I received my initial approval on my [Naval Postgraduate School] master’s thesis. Coincidentally, my thesis is about saving victims from cardiac arrest. The best way to save victims of cardiac arrest is to provide the victim with quick CPR. When a patient receives CPR in less than four minutes, the odds of survival are great; after four minutes the odds of survival quickly diminish. However, it is difficult for any response agency to arrive and begin CPR in under four minutes from the time a person stops breathing.
This is why the premise of my thesis research was on promoting and increasing bystander CPR. Bystanders as the “first” first responders have the greatest opportunity to perform CPR within the short four minute window of opportunity. There are many people trained in CPR throughout our communities. Many of them are members of the fire department. When these members are out of their town, they are out also out of their response areas, and therefore would not be notified if someone needed CPR. Through mutual aid agreements and integrating existing technology, these barriers can be easily overcome and lives can be saved.
Additionally, the public can make a enormous difference. Today, bystander CPR consists of compression only. There is no longer the mouth to mouth component that prevented many bystanders from performing CPR in the past. Studies have shown that when a bystander performs CPR prior to the arrival of first responders, survival dramatically increases.
It is critical to spread the word:
- Bystander CPR saves lives
- 15 percent of all deaths in the U.S. occur from sudden cardiac arrest
- Hands only CPR can be learned in minutes
- More than half of all cardiac arrests occur at home, the life you save is likely to be a family member or other loved one.
- Send someone to find the closest automated external defibrillator (AED)
- Take 1 minute and 32 seconds to learn CPR – watch this video: